A Bark Comes In Handy

The point of training a dog to bark on command, is that it becomes a way to stress the dog, and then he resolves the stress by a clean, clear, deep bark. Why is this important? Because it gives the dog a way to express fear without having to act on fear. In this sequence we see the sable GSD bark at the Westy rather than having to grab him with his jaws (the more primal expression of physical grounding) and this has the effect of keeping the Westy calm. The Westy can feel that the GSD is moving its energy rather than trying to hold it in, and energy that moves is safe, energy that is being held back is always dangerous.

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Published September 12, 2011 by Kevin Behan
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12 responses to “A Bark Comes In Handy”

  1. Christine says:

    This sentence is a bit confusing as it appears contradictory: “…the bark on command … becomes a way to stress the dog, and then he resolves the stress by a clean, clear, deep bark. ” I’m assuming that the bark on command is not used to create stress in the dog and then resolve it but that it becomes a tool that helps resolve existing stress.

  2. kbehan says:

    Yes, I didn’t say it well. What I do is put the dog under pressure, and then elicit the bark so that the dog gets the pattern that barking is an effective way to control pressure. Then this lesson becomes available to the dog when under pressure, and it helps the other dog feel as if the barking dog is under control and not dangerous. Hope this clarifies.

  3. Christine says:

    Yes…the dog has another tool to put in his pocket, so to speak. A follow up question, please…in what ways do you put pressure on a dog?

  4. kbehan says:

    I loom over the dog, lean in, brandish the toy, have a very tense body posture, and then the dog barks and I soften and give it the food. So it’s learning that it is in control by expressing its fear rather than acting on it by being reactive!

  5. so – the dog is actually getting afraid of you – and starts barking? – how’s that gonna work when you want them to turn to you in times of stress? – and is there a good or bad time to start doing this – as in -> what if you are still working to gain the trust of the dog?

  6. Christine says:

    This is interesting to me Kevin…lately, when Diva gets snarky at Sister, Duncan will join in but quickly turns aside. Is this the learning process that’s going on…he’s learning/feeling that he’s in control by expressing his fear so then there is no follow-through on the aggression?

  7. kbehan says:

    That’s exactly what they’re learning. They are stressed by the pressure from the handler, (remember it is all a function of attraction, even pressure, so the dog is learning that it is safe to be attracted to its owner when under an intense rate of change which is what resistance is) and are learning that they can resolve it because their handler is going to bring them to “the bite.” Thus there is an imprint for them to be able to be to turn to their handler when pressured by something in favor of a long term resolution process, rather than succumbing to the overloading behaviors that merely bring short term relief.

  8. kbehan says:

    Are you meaning that he barks and then that’s the end of it, if so then yes, he expresses his charge (a charge is invested with sensations of fear) and then he has it out of his system in terms of that incident.

  9. Christine says:

    I think so, yes…I’ve never really caught the whole thing but have never seen it go beyond the bark and a small charge towards her. Diva’s snarking at Sister happens on a daily basis (always around me), usually trying to move her away from me (or so it appears). Only lately has Duncan joined in. Another incident took place this evening centered around me in the easy chair. I vocally restrained Duncan although I did get a bit of a ‘whale-eye’ from him and some lip-licking followed by a big yawn. Don’t know if he would’ve followed-through and attacked her if I hadn’t…he did break one of her teeth a few weeks back but that was an entirely different scenario that didn’t involve Diva; it was a food issue.

  10. Cliff says:

    Whatever the underlying theory, it seems to work. I can get a pretty good squeal/bark/huff out of Lenny when we’re playing or feeding, but if he’s just noticed UPS or the mailman, it’s WOOF! In the first scenario, we don’t “stress” him beyond tug, but can get a pretty good response— especially if his butt is “grounded” to the deck. Anyway, he’s much more relaxed afterwards and usually curls up for a nap. Also, since we’re both getting something out of it (he likes to get it out, and i like the effect), there is some of that “flow” going around. Surprising that a simple exercise can have a profound effect.

  11. Christine says:

    Another light bulb moment (granted it’s only about a 40 watt but still…). When Diva is pressuring Duncan and he does the growl/whine, getting him to speak/bark would be a way to move that energy and then Diva would feel safe instead of being skittery around Duncan.

    Inch-by-inch it’s a cinch; yard-by-yard it’s hard 😀

    Thank you for the videos and the concise but ever so useful comments ♥ Very helpful and edifying

  12. Susman says:

    I remember reading this awhile ago and being lost but left it unassuming. I now know exactly what is going on and why it is so important. This is such an important blog and it’s only a paragraph long. Again, Mr.Behan, great work.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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